Return your sleeping bags, soldiers, the Canadian Forces are running short

The Canadian Armed Forces have sent out an internal call to thousands of service members to return their sleeping bags and rucksacks in an attempt to avoid a shortfall of equipment.

10,000 rucksacks and sleeping bags could be redistributed to new recruits

The Canadian Forces have issued a call to service members to return sleeping bags and rucksacks to avoid a possible shortfall of equipment. (5h Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown)

The Canadian Armed Forces have sent out an internal call to thousands of service members to return their sleeping bags and rucksacks in an attempt to avoid a shortfall of equipment.

The order, sent out late last month, is primarily targeting service members in the Ottawa area, where the Armed Forces say there are many officers who have not deployed recently, and are not likely to deploy any time soon, because of their current jobs.

But Lt.-Col. Robin Chenard, who works in logistics for the Canadian Army, said the order will apply across the country.

"There are members in almost all the bases that will be affected to a certain extent," he said.

"There are about 63,000 individuals who have a rucksack and a sleeping bag, and we assessed that approximately 15 per cent of those are not in an immediate need."

The call for the return of the equipment is based on an increase in recruits, largely in the army, who are the primary users of the equipment.

The Canadian Forces are in the process of purchasing new sleeping bags and rucksacks for troops, but delivery is not expected before mid-2019. (Land Task Force, Operation Reassurance/DND)

With the current rate of recruitment, there were concerns there might not be enough equipment available by next summer, said Chenard.

New equipment on order

Col. Keith Osmond, commander of the 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, said he thinks the order will affect the Maritimes as much as other regions.

He attributes the increase to recruitment in the past year, which he said has brought new recruits to training locations in Aldershot, N.S., and Gagetown, N.B.

"We have less people leaving our reserve units than we do have joining," he said. "So there's a net increase, whereas a year ago there was a net decrease of about 13 per cent."

Rucksacks and sleeping bags are currently issued to all Canadian Army recruits both in the regular and reserve forces. (Cpl. Peter Ford/DND)

Chenard said the military is procuring new equipment, but it is not set to arrive until mid-2019. In the meantime, the Forces will work with what they have.

Chenard is one of the people who will have to return his own sleeping bag.

"The truth is I haven't used [my equipment] for about five years and so it's probably better in the hands of somebody who's actually going to use it more than I am."

Emotional baggage

Osmond admits that beyond the logistical barriers to soldiers returning equipment, there is also a nostalgic element to keeping an old rucksack in the garage.

"If you think of a soldier that spent 30 years in the army and all of a sudden they're posted into a headquarters job — it's sort of one more of those strings that's cut as you move away from the field force."

In an email, the Forces stated they aim "to redistribute approximately 10,000 rucksacks and sleeping bags within the next few years."

Members have been given 60 days for the initial recall. The military will reassess its requirements at that point.

About the Author

Danielle d'Entremont

Reporter/Editor

Danielle d’Entremont is a reporter based in Halifax. She previously worked for CBC Toronto and is happy as a clam to be back in her hometown. She’s always fishing for interesting stories. Send your story to her at danielle.dentremont@cbc.ca.